01 May 2023
by Shane Buchanan
MLT Aikins LLP
The Government of Saskatchewan introduced The Accessible Saskatchewan Act (the “Act”) on November 15, 2022.
The Act aims to improve accessibility by preventing and removing barriers that disable people with respect to employment, the built environment, information and communications, transportation, service animals, procurement, service delivery and any other prescribed activities or undertakings. “Disability” under the Act is defined as an impairment that, in interaction with a barrier, hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society.
The Act will apply to all areas that the provincial government is responsible for, including provincially owned properties, cities and towns, health care, schools and parks.
The Government of Saskatchewan, public sector bodies and other prescribed persons under the Act will be required to develop accessibility plans to identify, remove and prevent barriers for those who interact with their entity. The accessibility plans must be developed and updated in consultation with people with disabilities. Inclusion, adaptability, diversity, collaboration, self-determination and universal design are all principles that must be considered in developing accessibility plans. Entities will also be required to establish a process for receiving comments from the public with respect to their plan and to review their plan at least once every three years.
Once the Act is in force, the Government of Saskatchewan will have one year to make its initial accessibility plan publicly available. Other public entities will have two years. Since the Act is currently moving its way through the legislative approval process, we will provide an update when it comes into force.
Establishments and responsibilities
The Act requires the minister to raise awareness surrounding the issue of accessibility and how barriers hinder the full and equal participation in society of those with disabilities. The minister must ensure that that persons with disabilities are given the opportunity to engage in the development and implementation of accessibility standards. An annual report regarding the administration of the Act must be made publicly available each year.
An Accessibility Advisory Committee will be established to advise the minister with respect to the administration of the Act and the regulations. The Committee will consist of nine to 15 members, with at least one-half being persons with disabilities or persons employed by or associated with an organization that supports persons with disabilities. The role of the Committee includes advising the minister on proposed accessibility standards and public awareness and education initiatives.
The Act will also establish the Saskatchewan Accessibility Office, which will be responsible for supporting the administration of the Act and the regulations.
Enforcement and compliance
Enforcement and compliance mechanisms under the Act include allowing for inspection to investigate non-compliance. A person found to be in contravention of the Act would be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction of a fine up to $250,000. Where a corporation commits an offence, a director or officer of the corporation may be found liable if they participated in the violation.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
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